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OPINION – Konami? More like KonAAAmi!

OPINION – In the previous few days, there have been several rumours about Konami, which all seemed to have follow the recent – and for us, somewhat painful – trends of the company, who immediately denied them. It seems that Konami, who have bought out Hudson as well in 2011, is having their star go down on one front, but they will not go bankrupt…

Konami‘s history starts all the way back in 1969, when Kagemasa Kōzuki opened a jukebox-repairing service in the city of Toyonaka. After four years, he decided to shift the company towards the arcades, as well as renaming it to Konami Industry Co., Ltd.Konami‘s name is put together with the names of Kagemasa Kōzuki, Yoshinobu Nakama and Tatsuo Miyasako. Their first machine saw the light in 1978, and they really started to get into the groove by 1981 with Frogger, Super Cobra and Scrambler. It was one easy step to move towards PC and MSX game development, and in 1985, they were already making games for Nintendo’s successful Famicom, aka the NES…

…but what changed after 30 years? Well, Kagemasa Kōzuki is STILL the chairman (!) and now, his son, Takuya has taken the presidential role in June 2012. If this doesn’t point out that Konami is still pretty much a family-run business, than nothing does. Don’t forget, Nintendo was similar up to 2005, because Hiroshi Yamauchi, the grandson of the founder Fusajiro (who opened Nintendo in 1889) was leading the company. In the Japanese culture, it’s still a tradition of handing over leadership of family-run enterprises from parents to children. But getting back on track, in the leading commitee, we can find Kimihiko Hagashio, cousion of Takuya, and Fumiaki Tanaka, who’s a son-in-law to the Kozuki family. From the seven internal directors, four are family members.

Turning point

Still, the family managed to romp to success big time from the 1980s, and they kept up their big success in the following decades as well. The gamers received several popular titles, which all became very successful. Just think of Castlevania (in Japan, Akumajō Drakula), Contra (Gryzor), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Gradius, Metal Gear, Goemon, Pro Evolution Soccer (Winning Eleven), Yu-Gi-Oh!, Dance Dance Revolution, Beatmania, Snatcher, Policenauts, Gensosuidoken, and who knows what else franchises – this is a huge list, and this all came from my own head without looking any up.

This shows that Konami can strike success in gaming, but still, there was something, that slowly, but steadily took their place away from a place, where they always belonged: the leading multiplatform developers.
Mobile games. Dragon Collection, for example. They realized something that might be financially good, but in the eyes of gamers, not really…

Distance

 The Kozuki clan got the grip of the money bags. Let’s develop something on the cheap, and sell tons of it. Let’s focus on this. They were infected by the mobile virus. Yet, you can get somewhat behind them: recently, the AAA games are taking up more and more millions of dollars (even a hundred million is possible or even more, as seen wth a recent multiplatform game, which can be bought in stores!), plus it’s really not easy to create something new and successful. Let’s look at the most popular and best-selling franchises out there.

Call of Duty – it’s a decade old. Battlefield – ditto. Assassin’s Creed – there’s at least two each year. Sport games – one per year, and it’s literally impossible – and financially a waste – to completely revamp it every single year, it’s IMPOSSIBLE. Episodic games? Everything is going to end eventually… or not even begin, as seen with Episode Three of Half-Life 2. It’s hard to get your foot into the market, and it will cost you a LOT to create a new IP from absolute zero. And Konami just doesn’t want to waste their money, because they are afraid of something new. Afraid of the financial risk. Afraid of failure… but they have to be brave in the gaming scene, otherwise look, a new dev will come and create something that you wanted to pull off earlier.

You are not needed

In April 2015, the beginning of the current fiscal year, there was some rearrangement in the management of Konami, followed by a statement that they will focus on mobile games. Then, they ended up throwing out Silent Hills, which could have been a major success, especially going by last summer’s Playable Teaser, which was also completely erased from the PlayStation Network.

Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro most likely had a great concept laid out already, but nope: del Toro ended up turning his back on gaming (after THQ falling apart while he had his Insane idea, and now Silent Hills, it makes sense – he did not want a third failure), plus Kojima was thrown out the door as well.

And because of that, I think Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain suffered. The game was touted to be out by 2014 (at least, Konami wanted to go for that release window), and still, the second Chapter suffered a lot. The non-existent third Chapter (and the possible lack of further Chapters), the cut Mission 51 found on the Collector’s Edition bonus disc on PS4, effectively laying out the origins of two major characters in later games… nowhere to be found. The magnum opus ended up as a magnum, and no, I’m not talking about that overpriced ice cream. Chekhov’s magnum was fired. It backfired. The phantom pain inside us, and the plan – although in a rough way – worked out. What now?

AAA… no, not AAA

And now, it seems that Konami is going to stop the AAA game development entirely, except Pro Evolution Soccer. Oh really. Then please tell me, what is up with 2016’s PC port, which is a weird PS3/PS4 hybrid? Its visuals are under the current-gen consoles, when it should be the other way around? What is this? If this is going to be the only AAA title, then try to develop fairly for all five (or soon, three) platforms.

This „un-AAA-fying” was mentioned by one of the key figures behind FOX Engine, namely, Julien Merceron, who has left Konami since. He says the publisher is simply not interested in AAA games. And yes, they immediately responded, although not the PR team pulled off the reply, instead, it was someone else from the Customer Support. Weird.
Weird applies to the inner structure of Konami too, where the workers are close to be in Orwell’s 1984. One day, a veteran game developer.

The next day, a security guard. This happened. Meanwhile, a whole team is focusing on the inner CCTV camera views. The public shaming is being heard by those speakers around the building – the katana in your mind about to slice through you.

Where now?

In my opinion, Konami seems to harshly move out of the console/PC gaming scene. Yeah, there’s Metal Gear Online, which will launch on October 6 on consoles, but let me ask a question: will it actually be supported then? Or will this be quickly rotten because of the lack of care? It would be a cruel, ruthless move, and we will see the answers very soon.
What about the ton of franchises, that made Konami successful? Sure, they said that Metal Gear will be continued, but without Kojima, it would not be the same anymore. How would they even pull it off? Metal Gear Solid 6, as an Android/iOS FPS? Ewww, no. And to make things even worse, they have shown off a pachinko game… of Silent Hill. This is absolutely incredible, and not in a positive way. Just see for yourself:

I honestly can not believe it. They throw Silent Hills out, and then they pull this garbage out. There’s 384 likes on the video… and 16251 dislikes. So 98% of the voters shown dislike towards this move on YouTube. But wait, there’s more! There’s a Castlevania pachinko. An EROTIC Castlevania pachinko…

For them, this is the new direction it seems. No Castlevania games to be made soon, because Lords of Shadow 2 was a piece of s… cr… it sucked, okay? When was the last Contra game made? Contra 3D… 2013… pachislot. Okay, before that? Hard Corps: Uprising, digital only PSN/XBL title from 2011. Well done.

From this standpoint, it will be ridiculously impossible to stand up in front of the viewers. They dug too deep to get back from down there.The last 8-9 months were simply terrible PR moves by Konami. Although they won’t go bankrupt (they have expanded tremendously, especially their gym line is really strong), but they will go away – and we won’t wave after them. It looks like they don’t care anymore, and they unlisted themselves from the New York stock market as well. They will slowly convert into a mobile/pachislot developer and we will not care.

They bought Hudson in 2011. What about their titles? Adventure Island? Bonk? Bomberman? R-Type? Bloody Roar? Momotaru Densetsu? Momotaru Dentetsu? (Nope, they are two different franchises!) Star Soldier? Ah, forget it. They won’t even touch these with a ten-foot stick, despite Hudson having several plans before Konami ate them up.
Konami will be blown away by the reaction of the gamers, and in the cycle of nature, they will end up on the wasteland of the console, PC gaming, unless they realize that they are going against the tide, even if their AAA development cost comment does seem to make a point. This wiill end soon. I’m not hoping for the best. Finita la commedia.

-V-

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